There’s nothing worse than coming down with a cold or flu and being out of action of a week (or more). The sore throat, runny nose, headache & fever. You’re lucky if it doesn’t turn into a chest or sinus infection!

For many of us, it’s simply an annual event that strikes in Winter that we quickly overcome, and we can get back to business in no time.

But for a growing number of people, more colds and flus are occurring throughout the year, and we’re taking longer to heal from them.

Over-the-counter medications can be useful to help alleviate the symptoms and make us feel a bit more “normal”, but they certainly don’t address why we’re getting more sick, more often.

The connection between what we eat (and the nutrients in the food we eat) and our immune function is phenomenal. Our white blood cells, which detect invading pathogens, help our body mount a reaction against them and prevent or kill any infections, rely on a number of nutrients to work best and get their jobs done.

Additionally, many areas of our body which are commonly involved in an immune response (such as the airways like your nasal passages, throat and lungs, or your gastrointestinal tract) also require certain nutrients to function properly and help us in our journey to healing.

Here are our top 3 nutrients to use for supporting your immune system:

Vitamin C

Ah, the classic Vitamin C! It’s highly likely we’ve all heard of this one, and it’s usually the first one we reach for when we feel that tickle in our throats starting up, or a sniffle coming on. So, why is Vitamin C so good for our immunity?

  • It helps your body produce the white blood cells needed to detect and clear infections & invading bugs
  • It has anti-viral action within the body
  • Taking Vitamin C at the start of respiratory illness can improve healing times and severity of symptoms
  • It’s great for wound healing, and skin is the first barrier we have against pathogens, so we want to keep it healthy & in-tact
  • It assists in the absorption of iron, another key mineral for optimal immune health

Some food sources high in Vitamin C include:

Reminder: any inflammation within the body will increase your body’s need for Vitamin C, and inflammation is a key component of many diseases we experience.

Tip: if you’re actively sick with a cold or flu, smaller doses of Vitamin C more frequently can be better utilised by your body than 1 large dose per day. Call to speak to our in-store naturopaths for more information on this.

Vitamin D

Another important nutrient which many of us are deficient in, especially in Winter time because (1) we’re getting less sun exposure which is crucial for Vitamin D production, and (2) bugs and viruses can spread more easily!

Here’s why you should consider Vitamin D as part of your immune-boosting protocol:

  • The immune cells in your respiratory tract (lungs, nasal passages, throat) have vitamin D receptors, and when there’s enough Vitamin D, improves their ability to protect against infection
  • It provides anti-viral and anti-inflammatory actions
  • Helps in the activation of genes that up-regulate your immunity
  • Deficiency of Vitamin D is linked to lower levels of white blood cells, increased chance of ‘catching’ infections, and increased inflammation

Food sources rich in Vitamin D:

  • Fish liver oils such as cod, herring & tuna
  • Good quality, organic butter
  • Egg yolks

However, you’ll need adequate sun exposure and healthy cholesterol levels to support your body in making its own Vitamin D. An hour of sun exposure per day, especially on the face, chest and arms, can be a great way to improve your Vitamin D levels.

If you do require supplementation, we stock a range of Vitamin D options includes capsules, liquid drops to add to your water, or a fast-absorbing oral spray.

Zinc

Last but certainly not least, Zinc. This mineral has the job of monitoring & leading over 300 reactions in your body – that’s a pretty tall order! And you can probably imagine, a few of those 300 reactions are involved in you immune function and ensuring you can recover from illness.
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Here are some of the key immune functions of zinc, as well as some broader actions that contribute to whole health and healing:

  • It works as an antioxidant to protective against oxidative stress (which is present in many diseases, much like inflammation)
  • Ensures all immune functions (particularly anti-viral processes) are running smoothly in the body
  • Zinc is important for DNA health. Healthy DNA = healthy genes & optimal health
  • Helps in the absorption of other B vitamins
  • It’s required by the brain to support stable moods
  • Like Vitamin C, Zinc is also good for keeping skin healthy and strong

Foods that are high in zinc include:

  • Beef
  • Offal
  • Oysters and other seafoods
  • Sunflower & pumpkin seeds
  • Whole grains with minimal processing

Because Zinc is crucial for so many actions in the body, it’s also easily depleted and can be an important one to top up on. Again, our naturopaths can help you decide if zinc will be appropriate for you and which form would be best.

And there you have it! 3 nutrients that can make a real difference in your immune functioning, preventing illness and helping you heal faster, all-year round!

If you have any questions or queries, feel free to call us on (03) 9576 3077 or email us contactus@botanicamedicines.com.au

References

Colotta, F., Jansson, B., & Bonelli, F. (2017). Modulation of inflammatory and immune responses by vitamin D. Journal of Autoimmunity. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaut.2017.07.007

Osiecki, H. (2014). The Nutrient Bible (9th ed.). Banyo, QLD: Bio Concepts Publishing.

Pizzorno, J., Murray, M. T., & Joiner-Bey, H. (2016). The Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine (3rd ed.). St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier.

Zdrenghea, M. T., Makrinioti, H., Bagacean, C., Bush, A., Johnston, S. L., & Stanciu, L. A. (2017). Vitamin D modulation of innate immune responses to respiratory viral infections. Reviews in Medical Virology. https://doi.org/10.1002/rmv.1909